NORWALK, Conn. – There has still been no evidence provided to support a claim of racial discrimination on the Norwalk Board of Education, a city lawyer said Wednesday. Meanwhile, BoE Republican Jack Chiaramonte is doubling down on his comments about BoE member Shirley Mosby, calling her “the girl who cried black.”
Mosby recently filed a complaint with the NAACP alleging that “African-American and Hispanic female board members are subject to continual intimidation, harassment, disrespect, exclusion, discrimination, lack of transparency and not being informed, and subject to disparate treatment,” Norwalk Branch NAACP Second Vice President Brenda Penn-Williams said at the July 1 BoE meeting. Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr has since had a series of emails with NAACP President Darnell Crosland, requesting evidence to support that charge. Spahr said Wednesday that he has gotten “nothing.”
“I sent them a note confirming that despite our request for back up information, that they had sent nothing,” Spahr wrote in an email. “I indicated that we remained open to meet with them should the need arise on the condition that we be presented with the specifics of any claims prior to meeting so that we could properly review and prepare. At this point there is no meeting scheduled.”
Crosland did not reply to a Wednesday afternoon email asking for the status of the complaint.
Spahr said, “It is hoped that the Board can move forward and act together and productively to do the job that the members were elected to do.”
There have been no BoE meetings since July 1 – the one scheduled for Thursday night has been cancelled and the next one is Aug. 5 – but blunt comments made by Chiaramonte in a published report might be regarded as working against that last sentiment expressed by Spahr.
Chiaramonte called Mosby “the girl who cried black” in a story that Mosby referred to at Monday’s Democratic Town Committee meeting as “not a very flattering article.”
“That goes to the insensitivity that we have been talking about for a year, two years,” Mosby said. “The simple fact that other board members, prior to me getting on the board, have been experiencing this type of treatment, and then I have experienced it myself, and the three of us speaking out on it,” she said, before stopping to protest that a camera had been pointed her way.
Councilwoman Phaedrel “Faye” Bowman (D-District B) called Chiaramonte’s comments “highly offensive,” and said, “Members of the community did find it offensive.”
Carolyn Fuller said Chiaramonte’s quote was, in effect, accusing Mosby of playing the race card.
Chiaramonte said Wednesday that Mosby had promised to make that claim long before the incident.
“Funny how she’s making charges but she has no proof. She’s the one making the accusations without any proof, so I called it like I saw it. She has told me to my face if she had to pull the race card she would,” Chiaramonte said. “When she got on the board, like many other people, they’re screaming how they want more black teachers. Let me ask you, as a parent and a taxpayer in the city, don’t you want the best qualified teachers? Does it have to be black? That to me shows some kind of racism to me.”
Mosby did not return a Wednesday phone call or an evening email.
The “girl who cried black” is a reference to a children’s fable about a boy who cried “wolf.”
“The boy who cried wolf, spreading a bunch of lies out to the community, got them all agitated and they were shown that they were false,” Chiaramonte said. “Shirley Mosby is saying a bunch of accusations out to the community and agitating the public, and so far they have been shown to be false. Sounds one in the same to me.”
“When they come to the next meeting screaming ‘racist, racist,’ I am going to tell them where they can go put it,” Chiaramonte said. “I am not going to take this. You know what? They think they can scream the same thing over and over, that people are going to cower. I am not going to cower. If they want to lie they are going to be held accountable for it. I wish they would stop the petty nonsense and concentrate on the work at hand. They voted for the superintendent’s budget, they voted for the vision that he had, and every time when he tries to implement them they fight it. That’s what they do.”
Yolanda Skinner, chairwoman of the NAACP’s Health Committee, said at the July 1 BoE meeting that she had witnessed “discourteous body language” at the previous board meeting. “The body language, the pitch and the tones that were used toward Miss Mosby, Miss (Migdalia) Rivas and Miss (Rosa) Murray was really disheartening. It made me want to jump down from up there,” Skinner said.
Asked about that, Chiaramonte said, “If you voted for the superintendent’s budget and you voted for his vision or what he wants to do and then you turn around and fight him on everything he does after that, I think it’s wrong. I also think it’s wrong to take we have to do on the board and bring it out to the community for every little thing, and the reason I say that is because you’re elected, you’re elected to make a decision, that’s what you’re there for.”
No need to consult 100 people, he said. “That’s what they are going to judge you on when they vote for you or they don’t vote for you,” he said.
“The other thing I would say, you also have a bi-partisan majority on that board working with the superintendent,” Chiaramonte said. “You also have a partisan minority that keeps fighting it. Now, you want to fight it, you want to vote no, vote no. Do what you want to do. … I don’t care, if you want to vote no.
“When I was chairman, I told everybody on the board that I don’t have a problem with how votes go. I said your job as a board member is to convince four other people on that board to your way of thinking. If you can do that you will pass what you want to pass. If you can’t do that, you don’t hold a grudge, grit your teeth and make faces, roll your eyes, do all that stuff they do and cow like a baby about it.”
Dede Farnsworth said something similar at Monday’s DTC meeting, addressing Penn-Williams, Fuller and Mosby.
“We don’t want to get into a dogfight at every meeting,” said Farnsworth, wife of DTC Chairman Ed Camacho. “I request that you interact in a way without sighing or rolling your eyes. … Stop acting like junior high school women by rolling your eyes.”
Chiaramonte said the three “partisan minority” board members constantly come out with “baseless, meritless accusations.” He also said he is tired of the tirades from Mosby’s father, John Mosby, at every board meeting.
“The stuff they are saying is such nonsense. It really gets to your spirit,” Chiaramonte said.
The elder Mosby’s complaints about lack of minority hiring are offensive, he said.
“With all the minorities we have hired in the last few years, you look at yourself and say why are we even having this conversation?” Chiaramonte said. “The proof is the proof. You know what is really funny, is they are saying these allegations against us, they are basically calling us racists, and then we get to the actual proof of the pudding here it shows that we have hired lots of minorities. Black and Latino. To me it’s like Bizarro-land. I’m in Bizzaro-universe over here, that’s what’s going on. I don’t get it when they make these accusations.”
Chiaramonte is not backing down.
“I still meant what I said and I said it for a good reason,” Chiaramonte said. “I don’t think it was over the top. I think when you compare what the boy who cried wolf did to what Shirley Mosby and the (others) have been doing, I think it’s exactly the same. A rose is a rose by any other name. No matter how you sneak up on the mirror your reflection always looks you in the face. I don’t care how you sneak up on that mirror, you can creep the corner, you can crawl upon it, you’re going to see it for what it is. You know what? What I said, ‘the shoe fits’ and I guess the truth hurts.”
Correction, 2:10 p.m.: Chiaramonte said “bi-partisan majority,” not “partisan majority.”